We recently caught up with Katie from Dogwood Adventure Play in County Durham.
Dogwood Adventure Play is a specially designed enclosed field available for dog owners to hire on an individual basis. The space gives dogs who may not normally have the opportunity, a chance to run free, off the lead, without the worry of bumping into anyone else.
The Buddies team came up with some questions for Katie to find out more about her role at Dogwood.
What does a normal day entail for you?
‘Mornings start early, with a trip to the field with our own rescue dogs, Fifi and Lao. While they explore the new scents left by wildlife overnight and the previous day’s canine customers, I do the daily checks. I check to ensure that no poo has been left behind, no toys or rubbish or uneaten treats, I check the equipment is safe and secure, that the perimeter fencing is strong and intact and then I’ll clean the water bowls and fill them with fresh water.’
‘I then play with Fifi and Lao or do some scent games and practice dog parkour with them to improve their confidence and range of motion. That’s all before the first customers arrive at 8am.’
‘Except for Introduction Sessions, the park is self-service, so I don’t stay when customers are there.’
‘There are lots of different reasons why dogs may need a private-hire dog exercise area and one of those is that they may not like new people. Therefore, we have to be discreet.’
‘While other members of the team take our Home Boarding dogs to Dogwood for their morning walk, I spend time at the computer completing admin, responding to customer enquiries and planning new things. We’ve only been open since May so there is still a lot to do – lots of new features we want to add, new services to introduce, new ways to improve – so I spend a lot of time researching and developing new ideas. I also use this time to get some coursework done (I usually have on the go at least one course that I’m studying) or read new canine science articles. It’s so important to keep learning and to stay up to date with the latest behaviour research that is being published.’
‘Field Trips (our dog walking service where we collect dogs from their home and exercise them in the field) start mid-morning and keep us busy until late afternoon when it is time for our Home Boarding dogs’ second walks. Our Introduction Sessions start in the afternoon and carry on throughout the evening until we close at 8pm. All new clients need to first complete an Introduction Session so that we can quickly meet them at the park to check vaccinations and show them how everything works before leaving them to enjoy the remainder of their session with their dogs.’
What is the best bit about the job?
‘Without a doubt the best part of this job is knowing that we provide a safe space for dogs that are not usually able to be let off lead. We get so many lovely messages from owners telling us that they were able to let their dogs off lead for the very first time in their lives! It’s often a very emotional experience and we’ve seen grown men in tears.’
‘Sometimes dogs don’t quite know what to do with themselves the first time they realise they’re free, that’s a powerful experience for owners. We’ve been told that some dogs with serious behavioural or health concerns not only act differently during their sessions at Dogwood but that their owners have seen improvements in other areas of their dogs’ lives since using the field. I love my job!’
What is the worst bit about the job?
The worst part is not being able to watch the dogs have fun in the park. Luckily, we receive lots of photos from happy owners, so this does make up for missing the live show.
Any tips for getting into the job or offering a similar facility?
‘For anyone thinking that they would enjoy a career working at a private-hire dog exercise area, I would recommend first gaining a thorough understanding of canine training and behaviour. It’s essential that you know why some dogs may not be able to be exercised safely in public places. Canine first aid qualifications are another must, as is an understanding of dog law in the area where you live. If you’re building a facility from scratch you really need to know where to source equipment and services (fencing, groundworks, etc) and how to apply for permissions and licenses from your Local Authority.
Huge thank you to Katie and her team for talking to us.
Dogwood offers multiple services, and you can find out more on their website.